The (Re)Emergence of the Radical Israeli Right

This is probably one of the most dangerous junctures in Israel’s history. Not only because of the rising tide of Fundamentalism in the region, and the looming Iranian nuclear plan, which the international community is so sluggish in stopping. But also because the radical right in Israel, so badly defeated in the last elections, is on the rise again. The way the right is framing the problem is too easily appealing to many right now.

The right’s logic is this: no peace is possible because Israel’s enemies will settle for nothing less than the complete destruction of Israel. Therefore Oslo was a mistake, and so are unilateral withdrawals. Each withdrawal is interpreted by the other side as defeatism, and only gets the missile threat closer to the heart of Israel. Withdrawal in the West Bank – Olmert’s “Convergence” plan – would only bring even the most primitive of them within range of Tel Aviv and Israel’s international Ben-Gurion Airport. In the renewed atmosphere of siege created by this war, all this strikes many as a sound argument. The settlers, a very small minority, now feel they have at long last carried the day and secured Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank.

But the logic is faulty. Nothing endangers Israel more in the long run than an inability to end the occupation. The right offers no plan to prevent the Jewish State from sinking into bi-nationalism, which would spell Bosnia. The right’s plan to keep missiles away from Israel’s cities, would only bring terror closer to home in an endless civil war. By the end of this decade there will be an Arab majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. If Israel “converges” to its international border the Arab minority (which, unlike the Palestinians in the territories holds full Israeli citizenship) would be some 20 percent of Israel’s population. Ending the occupation is thus Israel’s most vital interest.

Israel’s plan A to end the occupation – a peace agreement with the Palestinians – has failed with the collapse of Oslo, and Arafat’s refusal of partition in 2000. Israel’s plan B, unilateral withdrawal in the absence of a peace agreement, has now been forestalled by the missiles from Lebanon (and, importantly, by the primitive missiles from Gaza). The only feasible plan C is international intervention, and a multinational force to secure peacful withdrawal. But given the poor show of international will even in the emergency of Lebanon, it seems we would need a plan D. I can’t think of one. Suggestions would be most welcome.

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